There was a lesson on forgiveness in church on Sunday, and it got me thinking about an experience I had at Trader Joe’s a few weeks ago. Dinnertime was fast approaching, and I realized I was missing a crucial ingredient. I rushed to my local TJ’s, only to find a car blocking the driveway. I beeped my horn at him and he moved forward a few feet, but not enough for me to creep past him into the parking lot. I honked again, then again. Finally he drove into the lot and I was able to get out of the street.
As soon as I entered the parking lot, I understood why he had lingered in the driveway. The place was a zoo, and there was nowhere to go. Fortunately, we both found parking places before too long, but I was starting to feel bad that I had acted so impatiently. As I hurried through the store, I kept my distance from the other driver for fear he would give me a well-deserved piece of his mind. I quickly found my item and got in the shortest cashier line. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him get in another line a few yards away.
By now I felt terrible that I had been so rude. I realized I should probably approach the man and apologize, but I worried he might respond angrily, or at least feel awkward that a total stranger was talking to him in a grocery store. I reasoned that it would probably be better to just let the matter rest, but that did not feel right. In the end, I decided that begging his pardon was the only right thing to do. I paid for my item then approached the other driver.
I tried to look as contrite and non-confrontational as possible, still fearing he would become furious as soon as he recognized me (don’t laugh—road rage is not a myth; someone once threw a hammer at my dad’s car on the freeway after he accidentally cut them off). I walked up to him and apologized for honking at him so much and not being as courteous as I should have been. At first he wasn’t sure what I was talking about. I related our encounter in the driveway, and he said, “Oh! That was you? I’m sorry—there weren’t any open spaces in the parking lot.” I told him I didn’t realize that until I pulled into the lot myself, and I was sorry I hadn’t been more patient. He told me not to worry, that all was forgiven. I thanked him, said it was a pleasure to have met him, and went on my way with a smile on my face.
I learned several valuable things from this experience. The first, obviously, is not to honk a lot at other drivers—if they don’t move after the first tap on your horn, there’s probably a good reason for it. More importantly, though, I learned that reconciliation can be a sweet experience. If I had just slunk out of the store with my regrets, I would never have known the peace of apologizing, or of having that apology accepted. I also would have missed the chance to meet a very cheerful, friendly person.
Lastly, I saw a clear connection between forgiveness and happiness. This man, who strikes me as someone who is happy and at peace with life, hadn’t harbored any resentment about my offense. He didn’t remember me and scarcely remembered the event, so it was easy for him to forgive me because he had let the matter go long before. We all have numerous opportunities to be offended in life, but if we let them roll off us like water off a duck I think we’ll be a lot happier.